What is NFT?

If you have been following the crypto trends in the past one or two years, you will know that Decentralized Finance has grown exponentially in 2020 where many DeFi platforms were deployed. However, enter the year 2021, the DeFi growth has somehow slowed and seems to have been overtaken by another emerging trend, the NFT industry.

The NFT craze started when Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder, and CEO, auctioned his first-ever tweet(on March 21, 2006) as a nonfungible token (NFT) and was bought using ETH for $2.9 million. Since then many NFTs were successfully sold for astronomical dollar values, like the artwork named “Everydays: the First 5000 Days.” by the artist Beeper which was sold for $69 million!

So why do people are crazy about NFTs and willing to spend so much money on them? What is NFT after all? According to Wikipedia, a  non-fungible token (NFT) is a unit of data stored on a distributed digital ledger, aka blockchain, that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. In contrast, a fungible token is a kind of digital asset that is not unique and therefore interchangeable. An NFT represents real-world objects like art, music, in-game items, videos, real estate, and more. They are bought and sold online, frequently with cryptocurrency, and they are usually encoded with blockchain technology.

The following table illustrates the differences between NFT and fungible tokens.

Fungible TokensNon-fungible Tokens
Interchangeable
A fungible token can be exchanged with any other fungible token of the same type. It is like exchanging a dollar bill with another dollar bill and the value is still the same.
Non-Interchangeable
A non-fungible token cannot be exchanged with another non-fungible token of the same type. It is like your passport or ID, they cannot be exchanged.
Uniform
Each fungible token is identical to all other fungible tokens of the same type. For example, your one-dollar bill is the same as John’s one dollar bill.
Unique
Each token is unique and different from all other tokens of the same type. For example, your bank account is not the same as John’s bank account
Divisible
A fungible token can be divided into smaller units and the total value is still the same. For example, you can divide a dollar bill into two 50 cents or five 20 cents and the total value is still the same.
Non-divisible
The non-fungible token cannot be divided into smaller units. The basic unit is one token and one token only. For example, your driving license.
ERC-20 Standard
The Ethereum Standard is used for issuance tokens to be used as cryptocurrencies.
ERC-721 Standard
The Ethereum Standard is used for the issuance of unique, non-fungible tokens. The most well-known case is CryptoKitties, which is a virtual collectibles marketplace where each kitty is unique.

NFT has several properties that help to improve processes and things. First, it can prove and authenticate the ownership of an asset or information, making it suitable for fraud and counterfeit prevention. Therefore, it can be used in the KYC procedure, issuing academic degrees and other educational certificates. Besides that, it can be used in areas that need authentication and proof of ownership and information, such as art, collectibles, badges, voting & elections, loyalty programs, in-game items, copyright, supply chain tracking, medical data, software licenses, warranties, real assets and more. Next, NFT is easily transferable and tradeable by capitalizing the blockchain network, without the need of intermediaries, all you need is a crypto wallet like MetaMask.

The history of NFTs began with the emergence of colored coins on the Bitcoin network(Opensea, n.d.). Rare Pepes, illustrations of the Pepe the Frog character built on the Bitcoin counterparty system, were among the first NFT projects. Some of them actually sold on eBay, and a set of Rare Pepes later sold in a live auction in New York. However the colored coins NFT projects did not gain traction in the mainstream.

Cryptopunk was the first Ethereum based NFT project which created 10,000 unique collectible punks with proof of ownership stored on the Ethereum blockchain. The is the project inspired that the modern CryptoArt movement. It was an inspiration for the Ethereum ERC-721 standard that powers most digital art and collectibles. No two punks are alike, and each one of them can be officially owned by a single person on the Ethereum blockchain. Originally, they could be claimed for free by anybody with an Ethereum wallet, but all 10,000 were quickly claimed. Now they must be purchased from someone on the Ethereum marketplace contract where you can buy, bid on, and offer punks for sale. To learn more, check out the website: https://www.larvalabs.com/cryptopunks

Though Cryptopunk was the first Ethereum based NFT, the first NFT project that made an inroad into the mainstream was the Ethereum based CryptoKitties. Launched in 2017, CryptoKitties featured a primitive on-chain game that allowed users to breed digital cats together to produce new cats of varying rarity. The first-generation cats were auctioned off and new cats could also be sold on a secondary market. At the height of the craze, sales of CryptoKitties nearly touched 5,000 ETH in volume, with Founder Cat #18 selling for 253 ETH ($110,000 at the time of sale). These high prices drew more users into the NFT gold rush.

Today, a couple of NFT platforms have been developed to help users create and mint NFT digital assets, the biggest one being Opensea. It claimed that it is the world’s first and largest NFT marketplace that lets users discover, collect and sell extraordinary NFTs.

References